"The most wasted of all days is one without laughter." ~e e cummings

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

make-your-own sound matching game

We have some big time emotional issues going on right now....issues with the school bus, separation anxiety, school anxiety, nightmares, and Meltdowns of Unusual Size. And then there's a not-so-tiny girl who's trying to wean herself and a mama who's not-so-ready to say goodbye to that stage of motherhood. So, except for Sam, who seems to be relatively at ease at the moment, we've had some Moments these past few weeks. And the larger issues that are at the root of these Moments? I can't fix them. Not easily, and not as quickly as I'd like to. They're the sort of issues that need time and patience and reflection and understanding and acceptance. And that requires a good night (or two) of sleep. Which isn't happening (see: nightmares).

And so I'd like to imagine, for a moment, that we've got everything figured out. Just for a moment. Because that's what we did this afternoon. I stopped trying to solve and fix and heal and we just hung out. And ate snacks. And laughed at our silly baby.

Oh, and we made this game. And it's a fun one. And, if you made the Word Family Game, you already have everything you need. Literally--you can even use the same eggs.

This one is a direct rip from my friend Clare. I met her in our new neighborhood. You can meet her Here. She and her two sweet girls were at our house for a playdate this morning and witnessed a Moment or two of our week. She told me about this game as we followed, directed, answered, re-directed, assisted, chased, fed, cleaned-up after, soothed, and, again, re-directed, our kids throughout their play (and Max's meltdowns).  Because I could hardly connect two coherent thoughts, though (see: nightmares and attempting to solve unsolvable problems), she smartly emailed me once she got home to remind me. She even attached some print-outs to make it easier for me to recreate the game, but I wasn't near a computer, so I improvised. But here it is.....

Clare's Easter Egg Sound Matching Game!

So gather up 12 plastic eggs (or reuse your Word Family eggs). Then scour your house for six different found items that make different...or similar, if you want to be tricky...sounds. We found paper clips, pennies, pasta noodles, lentils, pompoms, and giant googly eyes.

Put one of each item (I used two pennies, though, so they would jangle together) into each egg. Put all of your eggs into one basket. (Trust me. It'll be okay.) Then, start Phase One of the game....SOUND MATCHING!

Try to find matching sound pairs of eggs...
It helps to Be. Very. Quiet. And to listen veeeeerrrrrrrrryy closely.

Once you've found matching sounds, try to identify what it is that you hear. 
Hint: The pompoms are super easy to find. 

For this, Clare printed out pictures of her found items onto cards to match the eggs to. 
I couldn't get to the printer...
because THIS was happening while we were game-making:

 ....so instead, I just grabbed an extra of each of our found items and hot-glued them to the top of the egg carton.

Once you've matched and placed all of your eggs...open them up and see how you did!

 Lesson Learned:

Deep Breath. The kids will be fine. In the meantime, play. And make it a Quiet...Listen Closely game. And breathe.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013


Although he wasn't even quite three, he was Ready.

And...even considering that, given his October birthday, he would have an additional year of preschool...there wasn't an ounce of me that thought we should wait.

As the stars would align, despite our late enrollment, the Most Highly Recommended Preschool in our new town had a late opening for the exact slot that we wanted for Max.

It felt like kismet.

And so, this past September, we sent Max to preschool.

Max is the Perfect Preschooler. He loves to learn. He loves projects and art. He loves to sing and participate in finger plays. He loves books and puzzles and fine motor activities. He knows all of his letters, their sounds, and how to put those sounds together to make words. He can count to 100 by 10s...and 1s and routinely talks out addition and subtraction stories while he plays and, especially, eats. He loves storytelling and playing pretend. He is inquisitive and curious and easy to engage. Max was born to go to school.

But still, those first few weeks were hard. I wasn't too surprised...it was, after all, his first time away from home. He hadn't even ever been left with a babysitter (not while he was awake, anyway). And so we pushed through those first few teary drop-offs and we both earned a few stripes on our Bravery Coats. He became more comfortable around Halloween and, as far as I knew, by Thanksgiving, he Liked school. He was making friends and telling stories about games he played on the playground and songs he sang during music.

After the winter break, though, we returned to teary drop-offs and night-before-school jitters. I was getting the sense that he was feeling Real Anxiety about school, not just the "I'd rather just stay home with Mommy" blues. We trudged through about a month of tears (mostly, but not all, his). And then things got Ugly.

Sad bedtimes on Monday and Wednesday nights as he anticipated school the next day.
Sobbing all morning on Tuesdays and Thursdays as we got ready to leave the house.
A clingy, puddle-on-the-floor boy who needed to be pried off me by his teachers.
And worst of all, "I just don't like school," all day every day, to anyone who would listen.

Between snow days, a recurrent cold virus, and the fact that he was only registered for school twice a week, Max only went to school a handful of times in February and early March. His sporadic attendance surely didn't help matters and our Preschool situation was looking particularly grim.

It was around this time that I started to notice things about this Most Highly Recommended Preschool in Town that weren't quite as glowy as I had once imagined. His classroom wasn't as clean as it could be. The "healthy" snacks they served weren't as well-balanced as they could be. The artwork that he brought home was more Product- over Process-Oriented. The classroom was seriously lacking in imaginative playthings....there is no kitchen or dress-up station, no building blocks! Where is the sensory table?! When I would pop in a bit early to pick Max up, I more often than not witnessed his two teachers chatting together rather than interacting with the kids. But worst of all....it FINALLY occurred to me that my happy, eager-to-learn Perfect For Preschool boy, wasn't Happy.

As kismet would have it (and this time I'm trusting that it's the Real Deal), it was ALSO around this time that we got wind of a new preschool opening up in town. It will be an at-home preschool...just one teacher and a small group of children. The teacher is Reggio-trained and a former elementary school teacher. This isn't going to be just a job for her...it's her dream come true: She is INSPIRED to teach. I've met her only a few times but we clicked instantly (and Max loves her, too). She's one of my favorite people that I've met here so far....she's a lot like me in that the natural Teacher in her comes through loud and clear in her parenting. She's NOT a lot like me in that she can train for a half-marathon while at the same time engage her kids in meaningful daily learning-through-play experiences, set up an at-home-preschool, keep an immaculately clean house, manage to style her hair in the morning, and also read. Books. That don't have pictures. Actually, I could have stopped at the "half-marathon," because if you know me even a little, you know that ain't happenin'.


So we've signed Max up to start at her new preschool in the fall. Filling out that paperwork took some of the pressure off about this year. I didn't have to worry SO much about the cleanliness or the snack or the lack of sensory table at his current school because it's not like that will be his only experience between now and kindergarten...

But, then, why are we still sending him?
To give him "something to do?"
To give me a break?
I don't need one. Not yet. He's only three.
And he's unhappy.

This morning, our first day back at school after defeating a particularly nasty virus, was epically bad. I called Sam and my sister in between Max's sobfests as I tried to get him ready for school. They both said the same thing: It's PRESCHOOL. And he's ONLY THREE. If it's not working, it's not worth the pain.

So I called his teacher. I told her that he wasn't coming in today and, quite honestly, I wasn't sure if he'd be coming back to finish the year at all. I was surprised, to say the least, when she responded with, "Yeah, well he's been pretty miserable lately." I knew he'd had a tough time, but "miserable?" Shouldn't I have been notified of "miserable?" I went on to say that we really wanted to give him a sense of completion so we were hoping to stick it out until spring break. We could even make a big deal of his last day to send the message that he finished out "his" year of school. "Well, Ms. E and I will do what we can to support him if you do decide to send him back. But we totally understand if you decide to just pull him."


Not quite the loving, sympathetic response I had been hoping for.

So I quit.

And I second-guessed the decision all day. Did I do the right thing? Did I walk on the right side of Doing What My Child Needs vs. Giving Up Too Soon?

My four sounding boards (husband, sister, mom, bestie) all agreed that I did...they all love this boy like I do, after all.

And then I was reminded of my brother, Jack, affectionately known around my family as Preschool Drop-Out. After his less-than-stellar pre-kindergarten showing, he ended up attending the top-ranked public university in the country. He's now pursuing his dream career and has one of the most admirable moral compasses of anyone I've ever known. He's a hard-worker and dependable and, given his track record of serial monogamy--has sticktoitiveness. So if that's the path I'm signing Max up for by quitting preschool for him, I'm okay with it.

Lesson Learned:

I'm not a quitter. Until I am. And this time, it feels like the right call.

Friday, March 8, 2013


We've had...a little bit of brother-togetherness lately, as Winter decided to dump 10-inches of I'm-Not-Over-Yet Arrogance on our town on Wednesday. Thousands of my neighbors, and a handful of schools in our county, have been without power (we were very lucky to have only a few flickers), so we've been at home. Together.

And it's been great.

Except for when it wasn't. Because, as everyone knows, togetherness is Great. Until it isn't.


Evan: You have to say you're sorry.
Max: You're sorry.
E: No, you have to say you're sorry.
M: Sorry.
E: You have to say you're sorry and mean it.
M: I'm sorry and I mean it.
E: Louder so I can hear it.
M: Sorry.
E: What?
E: That's TOO loud, Max.
Me (banging head on counter): STOP IT! YOU CANNOT BE THE BOSS OF HIS APOLOGIES.


Me, to Max: "Max, stop jumping on my bed when you're wearing my shoes."

Later: "Max, careful on the stairs...those [satin, sequined, magenta ballet flats] are slippery."

And the next day: "Evan, don't run so fast, it's hard for him to keep up when he's wearing my heels."


Evan: You know, you can't tell the snow where to fall.
Me: Nope, you can't. That's nature for you.
Evan: I'm just so frustrated.
Me: What? Why?
Evan: It's just so not fair that we can't tell snow where to fall.


Max: So, I'm Pocahontas and you're John Smith.
Evan: I don't want to be John Smith, I'm ALWAYS John Smith.
Me, interrupting: What "always"?? You guys just saw that movie for the first time last night! How many times have you had to be John Smith?
Evan: Well, once. And that's the same as always because we only played it once.
Max: Fine. You can be Pocahontas.
Evan: Max! I don't want to be Pocahontas!
Max: Okay, you can be John Smith.
Evan: Fine.


Me, to two whiny, bickering boys: I don't understand how you two can be anything other than happy right now! It's a SNOW DAY! KIDS LOVE SNOW DAYS. JUST BE HAPPY. AND BE NICE. IT'S THE EASIEST THING IN THE WORLD TO BE NICE.
Max: You know, it's not nice to yell.
Me: I'm not yelling. I'm talking loudly. And seriously.
Max: Then make your eyes look like this. [Raises eyebrows and smiles a Shirley Temple smile.]


Max: I would like strip tease.
Me: Cheese, Max. Ch-ch-cheese, not 'tease.'  And....let's call it "shredded," okay?


Max: When I grow up, I'm going to be a Doctor Baker and have a town-home full of neighbors. Evan, you can work at my town-home, too, but you can't be a fancy job like me, you can have a normal job, like a mailman. But you can live at my town-home and I'll make you sweets and you can help me at my Doctor Bakery. You can be my assistant! And Molly, and Olivia, and Lauren, and Anna, and Meg, and Elizabeth can be my assistants! And you can all live in my town-home full of neighbors!!

Evan: Max. WHAT are you TALKING ABOUT?


Max: Do you want to play with me?
Evan: No.
Max: Mom! Evan doesn't want to play with me!
Me: Well, maybe he's busy. Maybe he'll be ready to play with you a bit later.
Max: Evan, do you want to play with me later?
Evan: Yes, Max.
Max: [pause] Is it later?
Evan: No, Max.
Max: Can you play with me NOW?
Evan: When I'm done!
Max: FINE! Then I'm not playing with you EITHER!
Evan: Max, do you want to play?
Max: LATER! [pause] Okay. Now is later.


Lesson Learned:

Ready for spring? Why, yes. Quite. Thank you.